Dallas Cowboys: Top-5 rookie performers of all-time

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. (Photo by James Flores/Getty Images)
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No. 3 Dallas Cowboys rookie: Calvin Hill

With the 24th pick in the 1969 NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected running back Calvin Hill out of Yale. Although Hill was an accomplished football and track athlete, he still had to overcome the perception of not coming from an elite football program.

At 6’4″ and 227 pounds, Hill was an enormous running back. His size and athleticism were the primary reasons some coaches wanted to play him at linebacker. His rookie season with the Cowboys was a perfect storm as Don Perkins, the leading rusher from the previous year, decided to retire. The other two running backs, one named Don Reeves, both got injured during the preseason and in steps the Ivy League rookie.

All Hill did was rush for 942 yards and 8 touchdowns, and he came within 90 yards of winning the rushing title. He also outperformed fellow rookie and future Hall of Fame running back OJ Simpson, the number 1 pick in the same 1969 draft. Hill’s exceptional rookie season helped to lead the Cowboys to an 11-2-1 record and a playoff berth.

Hill was selected to the All-Pro team along with Tom Matte of the Baltimore Colts and eventual Hall of Famer Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears, who won the rushing title that year.